CBS, Disney, Fox, and Time Warner are the easy answers — and the ones that many financial types believe are eyeing the independent programming network companies following Comcast’s $45.2B agreement to buy Time Warner Cable. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger takes the conversation a step further today with an intriguing report that suggests several less obvious potential buyers for AMC Networks, Scripps or Starz. Distributors including DirecTV, Dish Network, Charter, AT&T and Verizon might want to take a page from Comcast’s playbook when it bought NBCUniversal. DirecTV doesn’t offer broadband, so it has “additional motivation to take some action to future-proof the business,” possibly by offering exclusive access to certain networks, Juenger says. Charter and Dish are long shots: Charter probably could only afford AMC. And Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen seems intent on acquiring airwave spectrum, although “nobody really knows Mr. Ergen’s potential plans, and they could change.” AT&T and Verizon’s corporate cultures are “a step (or three) further removed from the content business.” Yet here, too, they might take a leap since “their historical core businesses are not exactly growing, and they could amass the financial resources.”
Related: What A Comcast-TWC Could Mean For Hollywood
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Today’s announcement and other financial moves reportedly in the works for the gaming-oriented online service underscore how hard it is for channels to make money at YouTube. Machinima – which describes itself as “the number one global video entertainment network for young males” — says today that the layoffs, hitting 30% of the workforce, are part of its “restructuring in and around its sales organization” as it leans on its “longstanding partnership with YouTube to drive media sales.” But it also comes as it lines up $18M in funding from a group led by Warner Bros, website Re/code reports, citing “people familiar with the transaction.” Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that Warner Bros was mulling the possibility of investing as much as $15M in the online video operation. The numbers are a far cry from the amounts approaching $70M that Machinima was said to be hoping to secure last year. One of the problems for YouTube services like Machinima is that Google takes about 45% of the ad revenue it sells, as well as much of the inventory. Read More »
Don’t trust people when they tell you how much time they spend watching video on their smartphones and tablets. The ratings company learned that lesson the hard way after it changed the way it measures average monthly viewing from surveys to actual observations. The old numbers were off by a factor of — wait for it — 538%, TV station trade group TVB points out this morning. Using surveys, Nielsen‘s widely followed quarterly Cross-Platform Report last year put the monthly mobile video viewing average in Q4 at 5 hours and 23 minutes. But the new report, out yesterday, quietly restated that to just 1 hour — growing to 1 hour and 23 minutes a month in the last three months of 2013. “This disparity is an important reminder of the dangers inherent in trusting consumers’ claimed behavior and calls into question many recent studies that have proclaimed the demise of traditional media based on self-reported approximations of time spent with digital devices,” TVB Chief Research Officer Stacey Lynn Schulman says. Read More »
Eccho Rights has sold popular Turkish drama The End into further markets. It’s already being remade in the U.S. by Sander/Moses Prods at Fox, and now Germany’s UFA will develop a local version for broadcaster SAT1 while Shine France has also taken an option on the series. Further, Netflix has signed a non-exclusive agreement for the original in Sweden and the UK. The story is about a woman navigating a web of lies and intrigue as she searches for her husband whom she presumed dead following a plane crash. But it turns out he never boarded the plane. Produced by Ay Yapim in Turkey, the show is also getting a Russian version. Read More »
Despite Google‘s best legal efforts, you won’t be seeing the controversial Innocence Of Muslims trailer on YouTube anytime soon – at least not the version with actress Cindy Lee Garcia in it. On Friday, the tech giant was denied its second emergency stay motion against the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2-1 decision of February 19 ordering the video wiped off YouTube. That order was made public on February 26 and while Google tried to quickly get the right to have the video online during the appeal process, it failed – kind of. “Google, Inc. shall take down all copies of Innocence of Muslims from YouTube.com and from any other platforms under Google’s control, and take all reasonable steps to prevent further uploads of Innocence of Muslims to those platforms. Google shall comply with this order within twenty-four hours of the issuance thereof,” said the 3-judge panel in its 2-page order on February 28 (read it here). While this reaffirms the court’s earlier decision, it does make a small but important change in regards to the 2012 14-minute video and the actress who launched the copyright case against it. A change that gives Google and anyone else who wants to post the video some wiggle room. “This order does not preclude the posting or display of any version of Innocence of Muslims that does not include Cindy Lee Garcia’s performance,” … Read More »
Here we are again after the Golden Globes, Mike Fleming and Anita Busch taking on the task of play by play during the most wide-open Oscar race we can remember. Even on the party circuit, industry insiders who usually have a grasp of who’ll walk away with Oscars were evenly torn between Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D masterpiece Gravity and Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. Then again, there were so many terrific films that got Best Picture nominations, and all of them have at least a puncher’s chance at an upset.
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That includes American Hustle, where David O Russell co-wrote the Best Original Script nominee with Eric Warren Singer and got tour de force performances and nominations for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Perfs so strong there was no room on the nomination roster for perennial Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner. The film is up for 10 awards, and has grossed over $240 million on a $40 million budget.
Then there is The Wolf Of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio giving the most emphatic and complete performance of a great career, and Jonah Hill right there with him as his crazy con man sidekick. The film is up for five nominations, including Martin Scorsese for directing a terrific adaptation from The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire vet Terence Winter.
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UPDATE, 12:39 PM: Google isn’t taking a court order to take down the 14-minute trailer for Innocence Of Muslims lying down. YouTube‘s parent company filed an emergency motion at the 9thCircuit Court of Appeals late yesterday urging it to stay its order pending a full en banc hearing. Google’s 29-page motion raised First Amendment concerns and alleged that there’d be copyright “chaos” for everyone — especially Hollywood — if minor players in a production can assert a right to control its fate. Service providers including YouTube lack the ability to determine who has a valid copyright claim, the search giant says. “And absent a stay, Google, YouTube, and the public face irreparable harm because the panel’s order will gag their speech and limit access to newsworthy documents—categorically irreparable injuries.” In a case than lasted more than a year and a half, the court sided with actress Cindy Lee Garcia who wanted the trailer for the anti-Islam film taken down. We’ll see what the Ninth Circuit says.
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY AM: Actress Cindy Lee Garcia has won a significant victory in her copyright case against Google over her request to have Google-owned YouTube take down the trailer for the controversial anti-Islam film Innocence Of Muslims. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision today (read it here) rejected Google’s assertion that the removal of the film amounted to a prior restraint of speech that violated the U.S. Constitution. The court is ordering YouTube to remove the video, and the video-sharing site could be hit with major penalties. Read More »
ABC says this is the first year when it will stream the full Oscar telecast, pre-show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars — though they’re just for pay-TV customers in certain markets. But anyone will be able to check out programming designed for tablets and smartphones to complement the TV broadcast, something that the network began offering in 2011. As for the telecast itself: It’ll be available live and, for three days beginning Monday, on demand online at Oscar.com, ABC.com, and WatchABC.com – and mobile users can tune in through the Watch ABC app. The streams will only go to markets where ABC owns the local station (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, and Fresno), and they’ll only be accessible to those who subscribe to pay TV services that support the app (Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Charter, Midcontinent, Verizon FiOS, Google Fiber, and AT&T U-verse).
Related: OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever
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Breakout Kings alum Malcolm Goodwin has been cast as a co-lead in Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero’s CW drama pilot iZombie, from Warner Bros. TV. Also cast in the DC comic adaptation are Last Man Standing alumna Alexandra Krosney, and Alias‘ David Anders. iZombie is a supernatural crime procedural that centers on Liv, a med student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office to gain access to the brains she must reluctantly eat to maintain her humanity, but with each brain she consumes, she inherits the corpse’s memories. With the help of her medical examiner boss and a police detective (Goodwin), she solves homicide cases in order to quiet the disturbing voices in her head. Goodwin’s Clive is a detective who recently received a promotion from vice to homicide but has been floundering for his first two months and is in desperate need of making a case. Though dubious at first about Liv’s “psychic” powers, she demonstrates too much accuracy for him not to take her seriously. Krosney plays Peyton, Liv’s best friend and roommate who is baffled by Liv’s recent behavior and feels like they’re drifting apart. Anders cast plays the show’s bad guy Blaine, an entitled rich kid who bites off more than he can chew in the drug business. Goodwin is with Paradigm, MJ Management … Read More »
Studios’ failed effort in 2012 to promote the Stop Online Piracy Act (or SOPA) made it clear: Big Media companies had better not mess with Silicon Valley. Too many people love the Internet, and they’ll crush anyone deemed to be a threat to the medium by its biggest service providers including Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, and Netflix. That’s why Comcast needs to make peace with tech companies as the cable giant promotes its planned $42.5B acquisition of Time Warner Cable — and suggests that the new interconnection deal with Netflix is the first of many agreements with tech world Goliaths. If they’re unhappy, then they may embolden Washington regulators reviewing the TWC acquisition to demand a long list of concessions –and under extreme circumstances could even block the deal.
While terms with Netflix weren’t disclosed, the agreement will ensure that Comcast’s broadband customers receive, as the companies put it, “a high-quality Netflix video experience for years to come.” Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner says this morning that he’d be “surprised” if the Comcast-Netflix agreement “was not conditional on a tacit (if not explicit) agreement by Netflix not to lobby regulators” to demand detailed promises to protect Internet access. Others, including Stifel analyst Benjamin Mogil, are waiting to hear about additional terms with Netflix, including a promise to add the service to Comcast’s set top box so subscribers don’t have to switch to a different input when they want to watch the streaming service on their TV sets. Read More »
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom examine whether Facebook paid too much with its $19 billion purchase of messaging service WhatsApp, ponder whether anyone should pay for the maker of blockbuster mobile game Candy Crush Saga now that it’s filed for an IPO, consider the impact of the FCC’s replacement net-neutrality rules and look at the real motivations behind the clamor for Google Fiber.
The Davids also look at the possible futures of both John Malone and Time Inc. after some very interesting news this week from both.
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That’s the question investors are struggling to answer this morning as they recover from the shocking news last night that Facebook agreed to pay $16B (or $19B if you include some restricted stock) for WhatsApp. Analysts like the broad appeal of the messaging service which uses the Internet, as opposed to phone networks, to easily work with different platforms at a low cost — it can take the place of Apple’s iMessage, Google Hangouts, and Blackberry BBM. An average of 450M people used WhatsApp in December, and the number is growing at a rate of 1M a day. (It’s free for the first year, and costs 99 cents a year after that.) But the service would have to generate $1B a year in cash flow to justify the price tag, and “few data-points to support such an assumption were provided by the company, as evidently few are available,” Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser says. It’s not clear how much cash it can generate: Execs said last night that they won’t sell ads on WhatsApp. As a result, “it is not hard to come up with plausible assumptions that suggest the price is 50% too high…or too low,” says Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner. While he says it was strategically sound for Facebook to take the gamble, the deal also suggests a potentially worrisome degree of self-doubt — that the company didn’t think it could replicate WhatsApp’s success for less than $19B. Others who feel warmer about the acquisition say that other metrics justify the high price. Read More »
There are 34 cities in the areas that Google is eyeing to build speedy fiber optic services like the ones it now offers in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo the company today says in a blog post. The potential expansion territories include Portland, OR; San Jose, CA; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; San Antonio; Nashville; Atlanta; and Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, NC. ”We’ve long believed that the Internet’s next chapter will be built on gigabit speeds, so it’s fantastic to see this momentum” the company says about its request for proposals on how officials can “work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber.” The company plans to announce by year end where it will build, working “closely with each city’s leaders on a joint planning process…These are such big jobs that advance planning goes a long way toward helping us stick to schedules and minimize disruption for residents.” Considerations include topography, housing density, and local infrastructure conditions as well as locations of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines or utility poles “so we don’t unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one.” With its many Internet services, Google has a strong motivation to promote the development of a state-of-the-art infrastructure. Its efforts so far have already had a ripple effect, prompting cable operators … Read More »
He might not be the next Roger Ebert, but that didn’t stop futurist and artificial-intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil from giving Spike Jonze‘s Oscar-nominated and slightly satirical sci-fi dramedy Her a strongly positive review — on cinematic if not all technology grounds. “This is a breakthrough concept in cinematic futurism in the way that The Matrix presented a realistic vision that virtual reality will ultimately be as real as, well, real reality,” Kurzweil writes in a review posted recently on his site KurzweilAI.net. Kurzweil, now Google’s director of engineering, is author of books such as The Singularity Is Near and The Age of Spiritual Machines and subject of the documentary Transcendent Man, all of which detail Kurzweil’s vision of a future when computer intelligence becomes self aware and merges more fully with human intelligence.
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One place where Simon Cowell won’t be landing this season following the cancellation of the U.S. version of his The X Factor: American Idol. “No, he’s not going to be on the show at all,” Idol executive producer Per Blankens said today during a press event on the show’s new LA set. “I’ve heard he’s going to the UK to do X Factor,” he added. (He is.) The possibility of Cowell’s return after Fox last week axed X Factor was as one of several topics addressed in a sit-down with new Idol EPs Blankens, Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager. The trio was joined by Idol’s new director Louis J. Horvitz, set designer Baz Halpin, and returning EP and FremantleMedia president of entertainment programming Trish Kinane. Also there was Fox’s David Hill, the Senior EVP of 21st Century Fox and former chairman and CEO of Fox Sports who was put in charge of the show and the now cancelled X-Factor in early June.
Related: ‘Idol’ “Listened To Viewers” & Changed Format, Says EP
Season 13 of Idol launched to a premiere low January 15 as the show has been trying to get its once mighty mojo back with a reconfigured judging panel and new showrunners. The show moves into its live shows next week, going head-to-head with NBC’s Sochi Olympics. That isn’t a big worry, Blankens told me. “The ratings are doing OK considering and there is really nothing you can do about the Olympics — we knew when we did the schedule that we’d be facing it. Added Kinane: “The ratings have stabilized and we’re very happy with where they are against the Olympics. We’re up over where we were in 2010,” she said.
“What we hope with the live shows next week and going forward is that we can reconnect with the fans and get them to come back home,” Blankens said. “A lot of people love Idol but I think they didn’t approve of the way some things went last year.” Among the format tweaks: for the live shows beginning Wednesday viewers will be able to vote at the beginning of the show as opposed to the end as in past seasons.
Related: ‘Idol’ Partners With Google & Facebook For Online Voting
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Folks in the movie business sometimes argue with me when I tell them that the most powerful executive in Hollywood lives in Philadelphia. But that debate should end if Brian Roberts’ Comcast buys Time Warner Cable. With 30M cable TV subscribers, the colossus based in the City of Brotherly Love would have incalculable power to influence Big Media and entertainment generally. Here are a few potential flash points:
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Home video sales. Comcast recently became an important ally for studios that want to sell downloads of movies and TV shows (called EST, for electronic sell-through), their best hope to revive a business that has struggled as consumers lost interest in DVDs. Internet services such as Amazon and Apple’s iTunes were fine. But Comcast stunned some studio execs late last year when it began to sell EST movies and TV shows to its cable subscribers and beat iTunes and Amazon in sales of Universal’s Despicable Me 2. “In the first 2 months of their service, relying only on the content of three studios, including Lionsgate, Comcast has captured 15% of the EST market and expanded the business,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said last week. He added that “there are ongoing conversations with other [pay TV providers]. You will see them enter the EST space. It’s been too … Read More »
This is the question that will determine whether the companies can close their $45.2B deal. It will collapse in Washington if Comcast and Time Warner Cable can’t persuade FCC commissioners and, to a lesser degree, antitrust regulators that the No. 1 cable operator and owner of NBCUniversal won’t have too much power to determine industry winners and losers, and set prices, if it also owns the No. 2 cable company. Execs hope to head that off by arguing that pay TV is highly competitive, and by making some specific promises upfront. For example, Comcast says today that it will extend to Time Warner Cable systems the net neutrality commitment it made to win FCC approval for the NBCU acquisition. It vows to offer “affordable standalone broadband service” in TWC territories. Comcast says that TWC’s regional sports and local news channels will be available to other pay TV distributors at reasonable prices with a right to arbitration in case of a dispute. And it will expand public interest programming including local news and children’s fare, and will guarantee carriage of non-commercial educational TV stations even if they give up their broadcast spectrum — something the FCC wants to reclaim and auction to wireless broadband providers. “In today’s market, with national telephone and satellite competitors growing substantially, with Google having launched its 1 GB Google Fiber offering in a number of markets across the country, and consumers having more choice of pay TV providers than ever before, Comcast believes there can be no justification for denying the company the additional scale that will help it compete more effectively,” EVP David Cohen says.
Related: It’s Official: Comcast Announces Agreement To Pay $45.2B In Stock For Time Warner Cable
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This should add some excitement to Time Warner Cable‘s next shareholders’ meeting. Charter has several highly regarded cable execs — including former TWC Chief Technology Officer Jim Chiddix, former Charter CTO Marwan Fawaz, and Oxygen Media co-founder Lisa Gersh – in its collection of independent candidates for the No. 2 cable company’s board. They’d support Charter’s $61.3B (including debt) cash and stock takeover offer. In addition, Charter hopes to head off efforts by TWC to adopt anti-takeover protections. It proposes to fix the size of the board at 13 and repeal any by-law amendments made without shareholder approval since July 26, 2012, the last time TWC disclosed any change to its by-laws. “It is clear from our meetings with Time Warner Cable shareholders that there is an overwhelming desire to combine these two companies to increase Time Warner Cable’s competitiveness,” says Charter CEO Tom Rutledge. “Our purpose in this proxy contest is to enable shareholders of TWC to raise their voice, and to provide a very capable board who will hear them.” TWC says that Charter made a “grossly inadequate” bid by offering the equivalent of $132.50 a share; TWC considers $160 closer to the mark. “It is clear that Charter is nominating a slate of directors for the sole purpose of pressuring our Board into accepting the same lowball offer that it previously considered and unanimously rejected,” TWC chief Rob Marcus says. “Our Board remains focused on maximizing shareholder value. We are confident in our strategic plan, which was detailed publicly on January 30, and we are not going to let Charter steal the company.” TWC shares opened this morning up slightly at $136 — suggesting that investors believe that Charter, or someone, will offer more.
Here are Charter’s candidates for the TWC board with its description of their backgrounds and qualifications: Read More »